The Ways Blacks Treat Mental Health Issues Reflect Conditions of Blackness

With the #BlackLivesMatter movement being fueled by endless accounts of police-related deaths, there seems to be no end to the mental and emotional frustration in the Black community. This continuous exertion of energy may become a factor that contributes to depression and other mental health issues in our Black communities.

However, it is our generation’s job to deconstruct the stigmas surrounding mental health. We must examine how the conditions we face are also indicative of the way Black people paint – or hide – their stories of depression.

Being Black is automatically paralleled with being strong, tough and robust, which ultimately leaves no room for weakness, vulnerability or openness. Our racial identity and everything that comes with it is something we cannot walk away from.

“Blacks are the ‘walking wounded’,” Meri Danquah, author of “Willow Week for Me” states. “We suffer alone because we don’t know that there are others like us.” But now, people know we are not alone in our suffering.

After the shooting of the Charleston 9, the families seemed to automatically forgive the shooter without publicly expressing the grief that many of us felt. It seems to be hard to cope with vulnerability while also trying to remain strong for others.

On top of living in an oppressive society, Black men and women must also be there for family and friends while also taking care of their own well being. Black people should not bear the burden of the entire world because when it crashes and depression ensues. Everything turns chaotic.

The notion that mental illness makes someone weak is a very oppressive ideology in the Black community and on college campuses. This stigma remains upfront in society because people fail to understand the risk factors that predispose different ethnic groups to depression.

Factors such as social movements excluding Blacks, the pressure to be the selfless source of strength for the family, poverty, poor relationships, managing school issues, etc., all place an emotional and mental toll on some of our people. Sadly, some Black families emphasize praying problems or depression away.

Depression is an illness that needs a treatment. Just like you cannot pray away a broken arm, you cannot pray away stress, emotional fatigue, and depression. People say handling emotional hardships is built into the character of Black folks, but at some point we need an outlet of expression to cope with the things affecting us in the world.

Yes, temporary sadness and symptoms of depression may become apparent in our lives as Black people, but it does not mean we have to suffer with them alone. What does this say about the living conditions of being Black in America? It means that the intersectionality of our identity as Black men and women predisposes us to suffer with our problems silently.

However, we must react and find treatment or solace, as needed. If the Black community was more willing to talk about depression, then treatments could be given sooner or maybe Black therapy groups would openly emerge to help people feel comfortable in their own cultural environment.

In the Atlanta University Center, organizations like PEPers at Spelman and CHILL at Morehouse emerged to bring awareness to mental health issues like depression in our community. If you or anyone you know could be suffering silently with depression, let them know it is OK and that they are not alone, they are not weak, and that there are people who will support them.


Tiffany Pennamon

Editor – Opinions

Tiffany Pennamon is a senior English major at Spelman College. She covers topics including social issues, social media, higher learning, African American studies and college lifestyle.

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